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Cambodia: How my bike nearly got stolen


Thanks to Andy for reviewing my translation

December 2013

A boat trip at the Tonle Sap

After I ‘ve seen enough of Angkor, I decide to take a boat across the Tonle Sap Lake to Battambang. Early in the morning I head to the ferry pier which is located about 20 kilometers south from Siem Reap. I’m a little late but when I see some fishermen at the roadside just when the sun rises, I have to stop to shoot a few photos – no thoughts about the ferry anymore.

I had to stop to take this picture – and the next ones



Still I arrive at the ferry pier in time, my bicycle is loaded on the roof and the boat leaves. Trees stick out of the water, often the surface is completely covered with water plants, and only a narrow strip is free, like a road through all the plants.

The Tonle Sap Lake is a special lake: During rainy season it swells by backwater effects of the Mekong River and increases its area five times. Many fields and forests are flooded and that causes enormous fish growth. Only towards the end of the rainy season, when the lake changes its direction of flow and the water flows back into the Mekong River, is fishing allowed. The residents use different methods to catch the fish. They stretch nets to channel the fish in one direction, and use different kinds of traps cast nets to catch smaller fish. Within a short time so the fish stock for a whole year will be created and either dried or processed into fish paste.

The ferry boat – my bicycle on the roof
A water highway



The people here live in houses that are built on stilts, the lake is often not very deep. Instead of cars or motorcycles, the people have boats. To go shopping or visit the neighbors, you have to get into your boat and row over. Also the village school and the temple are only accessible by water.


How my bike nearly got stolen

From Battambang I continue cycling towards Phnom Penh. One night I ask for shelter in a Buddhist temple, and the monks even give me a room with a bed. My bike is standing outside on a sort of terrace. As usual I take inside just what I need for the night and of course my passport and money. The bike is not locked. The monks are not going to steal it.Theft is one of the four reasons leading to the expulsion from the monastic community. Plus, the people here are very honest and theft is socially highly frowned upon, so I ‘m not worried.

A beautiful temple near Battambang

When it is dark, I try to sleep, but inside it is very hot and the mosquitoes annoy me. I decide to set up the mosquito netting of my tent outside on the terrace, next to my bicycle, and fall asleep. Sometime later I wake up and see someone with a flashlight. The light cone briefly touches my tent. I think nothing of it; probably a monk going to the bathroom, and close my eyes again. Almost back to sleep I hear a noise. Without knowing what it was exactly, I ‘m suddenly wide awake and alert. Without thinking, I reach for the flashlight beside me, stretch my head out of the tent, and shine the light around. I see someone in a pink T-shirt run away. My bike is next to the tent, but the towel and other stuff, which I had hung up to dry, are no longer on the bike but next to it. My heart is racing, I ‘m confused and scared and shout something. Has anyone actually tried to steal my bike?

I crawl out of the tent, pack all my bags into the tent, and lock the bike to a railing, which I have not done for a long time. I leave only my helmet and spare tire outside. Still anxious it takes a while until I fall back to sleep .

I´m awakened one more time. Not by a noise; it is more like a strong feeling that I am not alone. I feel someone is right next to my tent. I cannot see anything; it’s pitch dark. This time the first shock is only brief and anger is coming fast. Faster than the first time I grab my flashlight, open the zipper and jump out of the tent. The thief indeed has come again, taken my tire and run off into the darkness. I run after him wearing only underpants, the flashlight in my hand. I’m really angry now, scream something, and run as fast as I can. He drops the tire but his head start is large and after a few hundred meters I give up. What would I do with him anyway? Beat him? Hold him and call the police? In addition, because he dropped the tire, he has stolen nothing, and to accuse someone of stealing without having evidence is extremely difficult in Cambodia. I return to my tent, bring the helmet and the tire with me. I try get some sleep . Just imagine what would have happened if I had slept indoors and my bike had been stolen. From now on, I will probably lock my bike more often.


Oxen carts are still there for transportation
A sewer in her small workshop
Children posing for a picture
A water buffalo enjoys his bath